Early infectious exposures are not associated with increased risk of pediatric-onset multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2018 May:22:103-107. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2018.03.015. Epub 2018 Mar 26.


Objective: We sought to determine if early infectious exposures such as daycare, early use of antibiotics, vaccinations and other germ exposures including pacifier use and playing on grass are associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) risk in children.

Methods: This was a case-control study of children with MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) and healthy controls enrolled at sixteen clinics participating in the US Network of Pediatric MS Centers. Parents completed a comprehensive environmental questionnaire that captured early infectious exposures, habits, and illnesses in the first five years of life. A panel of at least two pediatric MS specialists confirmed diagnosis of participants. Association of early infectious variables with diagnosis was assessed via multivariable logistic regression analyses, adjusting for age, sex, race, ethnicity, US birth region, and socioeconomic status (SES).

Results: Questionnaire responses for 326 eligible cases (mean age 14.9, 63.5% girls) and 506 healthy pediatric subjects (mean age 14.4, 56.9% girls) were included in analyses. History of flu with high fever before age five (p = 0.01), playing outside in grass and use of special products to treat head lice or scabies (p = 0.04) were associated with increased risk of MS in unadjusted analyses. In the multivariable model adjusted for age, sex, race, ethnicity, and mother's highest educational attainment, these results were not statistically significant. Notably, antibiotic use (p = 0.22) and regular daycare attendance before age 6 (p = 0.09) were not associated with odds of developing MS.

Conclusion: Early infectious factors investigated in this study were not associated with MS risk.

Keywords: Childhood infection; Epidemiology; Multiple sclerosis; Neonatal exposure.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age of Onset
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • United States